The Darkness Principle

The Darkness Principle states that “each element in the system is ignorant of the behavior of the system as a whole, it responds only to information that is available to it locally. This point is vitally important. If each element ‘knew’ what was happening to the system as a whole, all of the complexity would have to be present in that element”.

So, there is no way a member of a complex system can ever know it completely – we will always be in the shadow of the whole.


What we learn from The Darkness Principle is that nobody on a team has a complete picture of all that’s happening in the entire team. Each team member can only have an incomplete mental model of the whole project. That is why they have to plan and decide together.

This is why Agile Methodologies such as Scrum and Extreme Programming require the whole team to be present during planning meetings and daily stand-ups. The team members must aggregate their limited mental models and agree on a joint approach.

Summing-up: From a complexity perspective, there is a good reason why teams in an organization must be able to make decisions together. By letting them solve their problems and make decisions together we actually increase control over the situation.

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